By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s becoming more of the norm — children referring to adults as Sally and Tom rather than Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

So, should kids be calling adults by their first name? Good Question. WCCO’s Heather Brown posed the question on social media and people responded with all kinds of opinions.

Buddy Ken wrote on Facebook, “It’s Mr., Mrs., or Ms. to you young person! Language is a HUGE first step in teaching children respect for BOTH others and themselves.”

Paula Engelking wrote, “I couldn’t stand having anyone call me Miss Paula. I’m very comfortable having my girl Scout troop and my kids’ friends call me by my first name.”

Sonya Goins wrote, “You are Miss Heather!! I’m from the south, and I don’t let children call me by my first name. Ask my kids, I embarrass their friends if they address me by my first name. It’s a respect thing.”

A generation ago, children were less likely to refer to adults by their first name. Family therapist Kirsten Lind Seal attributes some of that change to a shift in parenting norms.

“More parents now are understanding that it is more helpful to teach respect in more of a role modeling type of way,” Lind Seal says. “We’re coming into more of a place where the hierarchy is more flattened.”

Other parents note our culture as a whole is becoming less formal. Often times, what a family chooses to call the adults in their lives are partly a product of what they grew up with and what others around them do now.

“We also tend to do ‘Mrs./Mr. First Name’ unless the other person does the formal ‘Mrs./Mr. Last Name’. Then we follow their lead,” wrote Kary Fronk Clark on Facebook.

Lind Seal’s advice to parents facing this question is to just ask.

“What’s respectful is to ask the person you’re addressing how they’d like to be addressed,” she says, pointing out there is no right or wrong answer.

Heather Brown

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